With the fall semester rapidly approaching for local colleges, and the delta variant of COVID-19 spurring new concerns, officials are notifying students and staff of their updated mandates regarding vaccination requirements and availability of remote classes.
Here is a look at the rules at various Berkshire colleges — and at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
At MCLA in North Adams, officials are expecting a full return to the classroom and residence halls this fall, according to college spokesperson Bernadette Alden.
In April, the school announced that it would be joining a growing number of colleges and universities across the country requiring students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before they attend in-person classes this fall.
“We will require undergraduate and graduate students who are attending in-person classes, conducting research on campus, living in residence halls, and participating in college sponsored activities to become fully vaccinated prior to the start of the academic year in September,” Alden said in a statement. “We continue to review guidance, but right now our mask requirement is for unvaccinated individuals, and we have renewed our contract with the Broad Institute for future surveillance testing.”
Berkshire Community College
“At this time, BCC is requesting unvaccinated folks wear masks and vaccinated folks have the option to wear them or not,” said college spokesperson Jonah Sykes. “We are following Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines, and this could change as the months progress, depending on changes from the state.”
The Pittsfield school is offering in-person and hybrid classes, with most students choosing online or hybrid options thus far. BCC is enrolling students through September.
Faculty and staff must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination by Aug. 31, the date by which staff will return to on-campus workspaces in Williamstown.
Employees can request exemptions from the vaccine requirement for medical or religious reasons or strongly held personal beliefs on the subject. Vaccinated faculty and staff should stop testing, and also are welcome not to mask indoors once they receive confirmation that their vaccine documentation has been approved.
Faculty and staff who receive exemptions, who have not yet completed the vaccination process or have not yet had their documentation approved must continue to test and wear a mask in all college buildings.
The Williams testing program is for asymptomatic testing only; anyone with COVID-like symptoms is asked to consult a health care provider about options for local testing and treatment. People who are symptomatic cannot use the campus testing site.
Visitors and guests are not allowed into campus buildings, with the exception of the Williams College Museum of Art. Visitor access to many other public buildings likely will be restored in the coming months.
Bard College at Simon’s Rock
“This fall, we look forward to maintaining the same safe, in-person experience that we provided students last year,” said Jenn Frederick, director of marketing and communications for Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington. “As always, our core priority is the safety and well-being of our students, employees and neighbors.”
All Bard Academy and Bard College at Simon’s Rock students have to be vaccinated against COVID for the 2021–22 academic year, unless approval is received for a medical or religious exemption.
Masking is required in classrooms and shared indoor spaces. Masking is not required outside.
“We are actively monitoring COVID cases in our region, particularly with the rise of the delta variant,” Frederick noted. “If necessary, we will adjust our protocols to ensure we are meeting or exceeding all local, state and federal health guidelines.”
Starting Wednesday, the school will require students, faculty, staff, contractors and visitors to wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces, including classrooms and the common areas of residence halls.
In a Monday message to the campus community, UMass-Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said the new mask requirement is “in concert with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, issued in response to the concerning Delta variant.”
It will be reviewed in mid-September, he said.
The school previously had said fully vaccinated individuals would not be required to wear masks, and that those who were not vaccinated fully would be “advised to wear face coverings in indoor settings and when they can’t socially distance.”